Legacy revisited: Is Brett Favre the best QB of all time?

I remember watching the movie “Rocky Balboa” with my father at the local movie theater.My grandfather was a boxer, and my dad was a huge boxing fan. He attended some of Muhammad Ali’s fights. He couldn’t get enough boxing. It was inevitable that he’d fall in love with the Rocky movies.

We watched them all together, and one Christmas I got him the boxed set — Rocky I through Rocky V. He watched them until they wore out. He memorized lines and found a few mistakes.

So taking him to see Rocky Balboa was sort of a rite of passage for both of us. The critics were foaming at the mouth … that Sylvester Stallone was too old, that he would do more damage to a legacy that was already tarnished from Rocky V, that making Rocky Balboa was more for selfish gain than for the fans.

My dad and I talked about the negative hype, but didn’t care. Rocky had become more than a movie … Stallone more than an actor. The Rocky experience helped define our relationship as father and son. We watched the film with open minds and open hearts.

As the movie neared the climatic final fight, I distinctly remembered thinking that no matter what happened in the ring or on the screen, that this was an experience I would never forget. The movie was better than anyone could have expected (at least to a couple of old Rocky fans like us), and Stallone would be able to go out on his own terms.

As I’ve written before,  I can’t get over just how eerily similar this all is to Brett Favre and his current season-long tenure with the Vikings.

I wrote what turned out to be a hugely popular and controversial post last May comparing Favre’s potential opportunity to play for the Vikings to Stallone’s opportunity in making Rocky Balboa. At a time when most everyone was suddenly a Brett Favre expert and were quick to ridicule No. 4 on a possible return to the NFL, I pleaded for him to return.

I needed some closure. Brett needed some closure. He needed to write his final chapter on his terms.

Now eight months later, the critics are mostly silent. Brett Favre is one win away from the Super Bowl after registering the best season of his long and illustrious career.

At this point, no matter what happens in the last stanza of this season, it is time to forget about the critics and the what-ifs and those who assume Favre will throw six interceptions and kill the Vikings’ chance at a ring. It is time to simply enjoy the ride and watch one of the greatest write what could be the final chapter of an incredible career.

A career that too many write off too easily as good, but not great.

Sports radio commentators were debating the greatest QBs of all time. All the regular names were thrown into the ring … Montana, Marino, Unitas, Young, Elway.

No Favre.

Why isn’t No. 4 considered the best QB of all time? Why, at the very least, isn’t he in the discussion to most “experts”?

Favre has shattered the NFL passing record lists. He has the most completions of any QB in NFL history. He has the most passing yards of any QB in NFL history. He has the most 3,000-yard seasons of any QB in NFL history. He has, by a long shot now, the most passing TDs of any QB in NFL history. He has the most regular season victories of any QB in NFL history.

This is the part where critics chime in, stating that no QB could be considered the best of all time while also having the most interceptions thrown of all time.

Why not? He broke some of the most elite QB records in the league in spite of his 316 picks.

Of all his stats, though, the most impressive is 285. That’s how many games, consecutively, that Favre has played — dating back to September 27, 1992. He hasn’t missed a game in over 17 years, despite the concussions and various ailments he’s faced. Despite the death of his father the day before a Monday Night game against Oakland. His performance that night was the stuff of legends. I’ll be telling my grandkids about that night.

Sure Joe Montana has four Super Bowl rings to Favre’s one. But if we were number of rings as our best-QB-of-all-time dipstick, how does Dan Marino slip into the conversation ahead of Favre?

Plus, Favre has 11 Pro Bowl appearances to Montana’s eight. No. 4 has three AP MVP awards, Montana just two. Favre outdoes other “top QB” candidates in these areas, too.

But beyond all the other stats, it is hard not to come back to Favre’s consecutive starts record. As other elite QBs were hammered into non-existence, Favre keeps coming back for more. He’s the NFL’s Energizer Bunny. It would be one thing if he came back and struggled to put together a respectable season, but he instead just keeps adding to the record book. Keeps adding to the legacy.

At some point, NFL historians and fans alike need to embrace the fact that Favre demands a spot as one of the most elite athletes in the history of the game. That he should at the very least be considered among the very elite at his position. That he’s the best QB to ever strap on a football helmet.

At least for a few years, until Peyton Manning re-writes the NFL record books in Indianapolis blue and white.

Who do you think is the best QB of all time? We’d love to hear your opinion in the comments section below.







9 Responses to “Legacy revisited: Is Brett Favre the best QB of all time?”


  1. Sockonfl

    At the moment, I agree jzak, Favre is the greatest QB to strap on the helmet. I will put the caveat though just like you did, that Peyton Manning until it is all said and done may just outdo Favre. Time will tell.

  2. Cburgess

    Excellent article JZAK.

    I have not seen some of the old greats play, so it is hard to judge anything but the numbers. In my opinion, Brett Favre is arguably the best QB to ever play the game. Montana, Elway, Marino, & a few others have very valid arguments, but Brett is something special. To have been able to watch him play the game, out of pure enjoyment – the enthusiasm, the emotion – nothing compares to the way Brett has done it. I admire him, I root for him, and I will miss him when he is gone from the game. The offseason distractions of whether or not he will retire has tarnished him to some, but in my opinion, that was more media driven than necessary. To play the game at such a high level for so long – the decision to play another year or to hang up the cleats must be excrutiating year after year. Your body tells you one thing while your heart and soul shout another.
    My son wasn’t old enough to appreciate what Michael Jordan brought to basketball (although I did make him sit next to me to witness his HOF enshrinement). He has been able to watch Brett Favre play the game of football, and I am thankful for that.
    Brett Favre is my favorite QB to ever play the game, in fact, he is my favorite player to ever play the game. I am not a fan of the Packers, Jets, or Vikings, but I have rooted for them while Brett was under center.

  3. ep

    Excellent argument jzak,
    Favre has been one of my favorite players for as along as I can remember. He plays hard and with a reckless abandon — like throwing into coverage — that I wish more players would try. His confidence and ability to shrug off anything that could sap it is what still drives him to greatness today.
    I’ve said before I believe he’ll be back next year.
    Hopefully we don’t have to go through the whole will he, won’t he on ESPN this time.
    It’s absurd that he’s not part of the greatest of all-time conversation. Especially if Marino is part of the conversation.
    The experts will include Favre and Manning when they’re done. Steve Young wasn’t part of the conversation five years ago despite his ridiculous accomplishments.
    If I had to vote today I’d go with Elway at 1a, but it’s a close race between Favre and Montana for 1b and 1c.

  4. Jay-Mo

    Just a quick chime in, since my boy Marino needs a little defense, as he usually does with this topic.

    Super Bowls are won by teams – not QBS – and among ALL quarterbacks who ever get mentioned on a list of this magnitude, who played with the worst defense and absolutely no running game to help?

    Marino by far … no comparison.

    I’m not saying Marino is No. 1 (at least outside of my world) but he definitely deserves to be in the discussion no matter what other names come up or are left out!

  5. jzak

    Thanks for all the feedback on this post. Was hoping it would spark some discussion.

    Jay-Mo … your point on teams winning Super Bowls, not QBs, is the same argument I try to use everytime someone spouts off that Montana has four rings to Favre’s one.

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